Proficiency Based Exam

At the beginning of the school year we undertook a new philosophy of teaching and assessing our students. As we discussed in our Communication Rubric post, our assessments would assess what students are able to produce themselves, instead of what they couldn’t do. No longer would our tests include multiple choice, fill in the blank, or true/false statements. Instead, our tests (which we don’t even call a ‘test’ but rather an ‘assessment’) would be all production based. After 2 end-of-unit assessments this year, I am thrilled. I’ve given one writing assessment and one speaking assessment. I’ve seen kids that would typically do horrible on traditional tests do quite well on the proficiency-based assessment. They were able to tell me what they knew how to say. Was their grammar perfect? Not at all. Did they use every single vocabulary word from the unit? Nope. But were they able to communicate and be understood? YES! And I think those students should be proud of that.

To plan your own assessment,first decide what the unit objectives are going to be before you begin the unit. Go over these goals with the students. What are they going to be able to do at the end of the unit? Then, all you have to do is formulate these objectives into a prompt for the assessment. The objectives you set are the study guide. The students know exactly what they need to DO on the assessment.

Example Unit: Introduction/Family Unit Objectives: I can identify my family members. I can tell how many people are in my family. I can tell the ages of my family members. I can describe the personalities of my family members. I can understand descriptions of other families. I can answer questions about my family. I can ask someone about their family. I can describe how I am feeling based on a situation. Assessment: A Census-taker is gathering data for the population census. She comes to your door and asks about your family. Answer her questions with as much detail as you can so that your family is well represented in the demographics. Answer the following questions: Tell the census taker how you are feeling at the current moment and why. Then tell her how many people are in your family and what is your relation to them: include their names, ages, personality, and physical description. You may also want to talk about the likes/dislikes of (a) family member(s) as well.


A proficiency-based assessment on La Casa unit is available for purchase at our TeachersPayTeachers store:

We also have a more realistic assessment for our clothing unit and house unit:
La Ropa De Compras Test

About spanishplans

Spanish Teacher in Chicago. Have studied or traveled to Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Argentina, and Uruguay. Have taught level 1 at middle and high school levels. Degree in Spanish and Master's in Teaching and Leadership. Blogger
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4 Responses to Proficiency Based Exam

  1. Lisa Dolder says:

    Thinking about implementing these in my courses and just had a few questions. Are you only planning on conducting them through speaking and writing, or do you plan to incorporate listening and reading somehow? How do you organize the speaking assessments, do they record them or is it done live? Do you have any trouble with students using online translators for the written assessments, and if so, how to you resolve that? Thanks!

  2. spanishplans says:

    I am still looking at ways to incorporate listening and reading as a major assessment, but until then I do informal activities throughout the unit incorporating these modes.
    For the speaking assessment, I gave my students the prompt a week in advanced for them to prepare and used 2 class days to conduct the exam face to face. This is good because you can ask them follow-up questions. If you have them record it (if not done in class) then you have no way of knowing if they are just reading their response.
    For the written assessment, I also proctor this during class time, so they don’t have access to translators or even dictionaries.

  3. T says:

    What does your basic writing rubric look like?

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